A team of experts has developed a device that mimics the hearing ability of mosquitoes to identify their species and gender. The researchers, led by Tim Ziemer from the Bremen Spatial Cognition Center at University of BremenI hope the bio-inspired detector will one day be used in the field to save lives.
The team created a mock “ear” that mimics the organs mosquitoes use to hear. The detector enabled the experts to identify the type and gender of a mosquito based on sounds, just like these insects do themselves.
Mosquitoes use tiny hairs on their antennae that provide 15,000 nerve fibers with information so they can hear better. Their remarkable sense of hearing also helps the insects monitor their own position and speed.
To identify other people, mosquitoes emit sounds that even they cannot hear. You listen as these sounds distort in unique ways that vary based on gender and type of individual, and combine with the flapping of other people’s wings.
The new detector uses the same approach by mimicking the lower part of a mosquito’s antenna, which is responsible for turning the emitted sound into something that can be heard. After the detector transforms the sound, a combination of machine learning and speech recognition tools help differentiate between species and gender.
Ultimately, the detector can be used to identify mosquitoes in the field, where they are selectively attacked with pesticides. In addition to reducing the use of pesticides, the device could revolutionize the way mosquitoes are controlled and help stop the spread of the viruses that cause malaria, dengue, and other deadly diseases.
In addition, the detector could inform people when potentially disease-transmitting mosquitoes are nearby. According to the World Health Organization, mosquito bites cause more than a million deaths each year.
Ziemer will conduct the research at the 179th meeting of the Acoustic Society of America.
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By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Employed author